What impact could Ola's EV mishaps have on the brand and the two-wheeler EV segment?
Many disgruntled users of Ola Electric took to social media in recent times to complain about the company's EVs malfunctioning in different ways.
In one instance, the bike spontaneously caught fire; in other cases, the bike's gears and braking functions malfunctioned, causing injuries to the riders.
The most recent example is Balwant Singh - who had taken to social media to complain about the bike malfunctioning and causing an accident. Ola published telemetry data about the incident showing that the accident occurred because of high speed and not because the scooter malfunctioned. Singh sent a notice to Ola to take down the telemetry data claiming a breach of privacy. Now, Ola Electric is asking Singh to remove all negative posts against the scooter from his social media account.
This isn't the only issue that Ola Electric has faced. The launch of the bike was much anticipated - and delayed.
Mobility isn’t the only field in which Ola operates. Ola also has its play in food delivery (with Ola Food), grocery delivery (with Ola Dash), insurance, hourly car rentals, outstation car bookings, and Ola’s wallet - Olamoney.
Other than one Ola two-wheeler EV, two Okinawa, three Pure EV, and 20 Jitendra EV scooters have caught fire.
This raises the question - how do the mishaps in the EV sector affect the brand? What about the perception of the electric vehicle segment in India?
We spoke to experts to find out.
Avik Chattopadhyay, founder, Expereal, a brand consultancy firm
Ola Electric is the flagship Ola brand right now and carries the burden of the other Ola brands on its shoulders. Hence, if anything happens to Ola Electric it could affect other brands. The impact may not be very severe as long as the businesses are not correlated or interdependent. However, a negative rub-off is sure to happen.
Overall, electric two-wheeler brands have taken a huge hit. And Ola is not the only one catching fire across the country. Each of these brands are facing the heat...literally. The consumer will certainly wait and watch a lot more before he/she is sure of the safety aspect of the electric two-wheeler.
Implementing regulations and getting proper testing standards in place will be the steps in the right direction. This is the case only with electric two-wheelers and three-wheelers which are more unregulated. Electric cars and commercial vehicles have not seen such tough times yet.
The only way for Ola to come back from this crisis is to be humble and accept its own mistakes. It also has to be transparent with the customer and rely less on social media posts by the minute. More than anything, it's important to deliver on its promise and let the customer be your brand advocate.
Shraddha Agarwal, CEO and co-founder, Grapes
Whatever is happening with Ola Electric should not impact its other business verticals because people understand that they’re all very different from each other - even if they’re from the same company.
People will definitely think twice before opting for an Ola electric vehicle or any electric vehicle for that matter because people would want a vehicle which is tested well and is safe for them to ride and use. Ola is a well known brand in the mobility space and there would be an impact on the overall segment.
In the past, there have been issues with cars also where manufacturers like Hyundai or Maruti announce a recall of all the cars which may potentially have defects to ensure customer safety. If Ola does something like that, it might work in the brand’s favour.
It’s going to be difficult for Ola to bounce back from this but its not impossible. A few years ago, when Maggi had been discovered to have high quantities of lead, it did affect the brand image for a few years but they eventually bounced back. We as an audience have a short memory and this too shall soon be forgotten.
Akanksha Patankar Mirji, brand and corporate storyteller
Ola has always been looked at as a ride sharing app. The criticism that Ola has been facing as of now is related to electric vehicles. Ola also recently announced that it is going to be launching an electric car.
But the whole point is, Ola needs to diagnose and fix it problems before it attempts to foray into this segment any further. The damage that has happened to Ola’s brand because of its EV venture is something that will affect the brand at its core, because Ola is well known for its ride sharing and mobility business. Whether it's EVs or pre-owned cars, Ola has to work hard to bring its reputation back from this crisis.